Blue Ribbon Handle Expected to Increase

Article excerpt

A betting handle increase of 15 to 20 percent is projected this year at Blue Ribbon Downs in Sallisaw if Oklahoma's economy holds up, President Ralph Shebester said Monday.

The track, which paid $2.2 million in 1985 to Oklahoma's general fund from pari-mutuel tax and commission vouchers, has a new glassed-in, carpeted and air conditioned Jockey Club with a $500,000 investment.

Blue Ribbon Downs will open the the 156-day 1986 season Thursday, with races also scheduled Friday, Saturday and Sunday this week.

"We look for a betting handle of more than $45 million and up to $50 million, if the economy doesn't fall apart," said Shebester. "We are projecting an average daily attendance of 2,700 to 3,000 ifeverything goes right.

The Jockey Club, which has 1,088 seats, has been about 75 percent sold out for the season at $1,400 for a table of four, said Shebester.

"We have sold out the Jockey Club for this week," said Shebester. "So we don't have to borrow the money to operate the betting windows this year."

In 1985, the first full pari-mutuel season for Oklahoma's first pari-mutuel track, Blue Ribbon Downs had a total handle of $41.8 million. The average daily attendance was 1,977 for 156 racing days for a total of 308,535.

"Our average per capita wager was $135.59 last year," said Shebester, "and I think that will stay about the same.

"Our Jockey Club will be first class, and the winner's circle has been moved to the front. So people in both the grandstand and the Jockey Club can watch the winner's circle activities and the toteboard at the same time."

In general, Blue Ribbon Downs will operate Thursday-through-Sunday each week with an average of about 12 races a day. However, there will be some exceptions, including this Thursday and Friday.

Trials for the Blue Ribbon Futurity will be held Thursday and Friday this week, he said, resulting in 18 races each day starting at 9 a. …